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NBA Ballers: Phenom Preview for Xbox
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NBA Ballers: Phenom 

Preview for Xbox

- William Usher, " Cyguration ", Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, March 12, 2006 

Review Preview

NBA Ballers: Phenom

Sports Adventure
Midway Entertainment
April 5, 2006

NBA Ballers: Phenom Screenshot Gallery

NBA Ballers: Phenom Screenshot Gallery

NBA Ballers: Phenom Screenshot Gallery

NBA Ballers: Phenom returns gamers to the intense basketball battles that feature NBA professionals and this time around, hiphop mogul Ludacris. The game is taking a big leap into the interactive world of street and professional basketball. For those who aren’t entirely familiar with this game, NBA Ballers is a little like GTA: SA (without the adult content) or Tony Hawk: AW for the basketball genre. It’s not just about getting on the court and staying there. This game instead features many out-of-court interactive side-quests and extra-credit missions to help build the credibility of your up-and-coming created player. Cut-scenes and voice-overs done by NBA stars, street veterans, and rap artist Ludacris also helps move the story along through an open-ended environment. This new iteration of NBA Ballers also features a more advanced create-a-character, new moves, more courts, and a new 2-on-2 setup.

Balling for bucks

As you’re starting out in NBA Ballers: Phenom, you won’t have anything but your tattered clothes and your trusty b-ball. The reason you were left with nothing is because your former teammate, AND 1 baller Hot Sauce, took all the glory, your girl, the loot, and a contract for the big bucks. Your goal: Play ball in the local tournaments, make some money, land a contract with the NBA, and pimp out your ride, your house, and your look. Yet before you can get revenge against your street-ball rival, you’ll have to travel around Los Angeles taking on all sorts of crazy tasks. Each task will enable you to gain access to certain arenas, courts, mini-games, NBA stars, clothes, and other useful goodies.

Freedom, oh the freedom!

Walking around in a free environment with your created player is one of the many perks featured in the gameplay of NBA Ballers: Phenom. Unlike other sports titles that bombard you with four-sided rooms and arenas at all times, Phenom actually gives players a bit of breathing room. It exercises gameplay ethics that extend beyond the court. You can travel to Beverly Hills, walk to the Chinese Amphitheater, eat food from nearby vendors, or visit many other familiar landmarks in your journey to become a well-respected baller. Simply walking down the street with your trusty basketball can even reveal or uncover useful items by tossing the ball into certain objects in and around the environment.

Big skills for a big Baller
You can also visit certain places to upgrade and change your character into the high-rolling baller that you set out to become in the first place. New shirts, shoes, and a little “bling-bling” are a few of the items you can pick up. You can also upgrade your character stats. Though, unlike the previous NBA Baller, you cannot max your stats out due to the new limitations of your character’s class. In Phenom you’ll choose whether you’re a forward, guard, or center. Depending on the position you choose to play depends on how good you are with certain court strategies. Three-pointers, dunks, blocking, rebounding and stealing are skills that also vary to your position, and you’ll have more or less success based on your character’s chosen position.

Still, to ensure that you can kick butt and out-shine your opponents across every inch of the court, there are the “Act-a-Fool” maneuvers. These outrageous (yet skillfully crafted) moves will boost your game by making your opponent look like a total fool. You can dribble in-between your opponent’s legs; bounce the ball off the top of their head; or just pull off a sweet looking dunk that’ll even make Jordan look twice. Some of these moves are dribble techniques, while others are combination moves that link into dunks. All of which are made to make your opponent, look like a fool.

Big names of the ball game

Among the famous landmarks and open-ended gameplay roaming, players will also have a host of interactive mini-games to partake in. For instance, there’s the Barber Shop mini-game, where players will have to talk to as many people who need a haircut, to go to the barber to help out his business. After helping him out he’ll help you out by getting his son, Ben Wallace, to team up with you as your partner on the court. This is just one of the many different ways you can unlock the 100+ NBA stars in the game. Appearances from Clyde Drexler, Kobe Bryant, and Piston’s star Chauncey Billups are just a few of the many NBA names in Phenom.

You’ll even have the opportunity to turn heads by making a fool out of some of the big names of the NBA. One task has you to collaborate with the paparazzi to take photos of the stars in less-than-spectacular moments. For instance, during a game, if you happen to catch Shaq or Kobe with an Act-a-fool move being pulled off on them, you can score big points with a quick snapshot of the moment. This can be done using the camera the photographer gave you.

Some of the other mini-games include dancing with other players and mascots in a Dance Dance Revolution style dance off. While other mini-games include earning extra cash by playing hoops in the backyard courts of mansions. You can also talk to people walking up and down the street to uncover tasks or side-quests for some quick cash.

For the fame or glory...

A neat aspect to the story mode is that players won’t simply go through the story earning new gear, and unlocking new content without a little giving and taking. Unlike other basketball games out there, NBA Ballers gives players the option to go all out with the fancy clothes, jewelry and pimped-out house. However, you could be risking your career going for the superstar status rather than focusing on being an excellent player. Players can follow in either the likes of Chauncey Billups (your custom character's mentor) and train to become the best on the court, or you can follow hip-hop mogul Ludacris. In the latter case you will work harder at stealing the limelight; making sure you have the latest apparel on the market; and getting your house featured on MTV Cribs.

With a more in-depth create-a-baller, story mode, and playing mechanics, NBA Ballers: Phenom looks to be shaping up to be a real contender in the video game sports genre. The open-ended gameplay, side-quests, and mini-game features also look to extend the replay values considerably. Tack on the ability to edit and customize your own Crib and unlock NBA stars’ Cribs from the MTV show and you have a game that’s seriously giving players the chance to live the life of an NBA Baller.

You can look for NBA Ballers: Phenom to hit shelves for the PS2 and Xbox come April 5, 2006.

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